Challenge of the Yukon was a long-running radio series that began on Detroit's station WXYZ (as had The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet), and an example of a Northern genre story. The series was first heard on February 3, 1938.
The program was an adventure series about Sergeant William Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police and his lead sled dog, Yukon King, as they fought evildoers in the Northern wilderness during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. Preston, according to radio historian Jim Harmon, first joined the Mounties to capture his father's killer, and when he was successful he was promoted to Sergeant. Preston worked under the command of Inspector Conrad, and in the early years was often assisted by a French-Canadian guide named Pierre.
Preston's staunchest ally, who was arguably the true star of the show and indeed often did more work than he did, was the brave Alaskan husky, Yukon King. Typical plots involved the pair helping injured trappers, tracking down smugglers, or saving cabin dwellers from wolverines. Sgt. Preston's faithful steed was Rex, used primarily in the summer months, but generally Yukon King and his dog team were the key mode of transportation (as signalled by Preston's cry of "On, King! On, you huskies!."
There is some confusion regarding King's actual breed. The producers seemed to use malamute and husky interchangeably. At least once, Preston answered "malamute" to the question from another character. In the early radio shows, the cry of "On, you huskies!" would alternate with "On, you malamutes" from show to show.
Von Reznicek's Donna Diana Overture was the pulsing theme music, and the episodes ended with the official pronouncement, Well, King, this case is closed.
Following the success of The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, George W. Trendle, the station owner, asked for a similar adventure show, but with a dog as the hero. According to WXYZ staffer Dick Osgood, in his history of the station, Trendle insisted that it not be "a dog like Lassie because.. this must be an action story. It had to be a working dog." Writer Tom Dougall, who had been influenced by the poems of Robert W. Service, naturally chose a Husky. The dog was originally called Mogo, but after criticism by Trendle, Dougall re-christened the canine King. Dougall likewise created Sgt. Preston and the French-Canadian guide. Fran Striker, who wrote for The Lone Ranger, also contributed scripts.
However, Trendle's criticism of Dougall may have had another reason behind it. Shortly before the two Trendle series aired ( The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon), popular author Zane Grey had a book in circulation (Lone Star Ranger) about a Texas Ranger like The Lone Ranger and a comic book series in circulation (King of the Royal Mounted) about the adventures of Sgt. King, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman like Sgt. Preston. It could be that Trendle borrowed both ideas from Grey's work and wanted to retain the name "King" as a tribute to Grey, who died after a long illness one year following the first airing of Challenge of the Yukon.
Challenge of the Yukon began as a 15-minute serial, airing locally from 1938 until May 28, 1947. Shortly thereafter, the program acquired a sponsor, Quaker Oats, and the series, in a half-hour format, moved to the networks. The program aired on ABC from June 12, 1947 to December 30, 1949. It was then heard on The Mutual Broadcasting System from January 2, 1950 through the final broadcast on June 9, 1955. The title changed from Challenge of the Yukon to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in November 1951, and remained under that name through the end of the series and into television.
NOTE: Updated Release! Version 4 -- 66 new Episodes and corrected sound variances (30-Apr-2013).
NOTE: Updated Release! Version 3 -- New Episodes and corrected sound variances (16-Oct-2011).
OTRR Certification Information:
Series Name: Challenge of the Yukon Certification Status: OTRR Certified Accurate Certification Date: January 4, 2013 Certification Version: Version 4 Number of CDs: 11
From the Old Time Radio Researcher's Group. See "Note" Section below for more information on the OTRR.
It contains the most complete and accurate version of this series in the best sound possible at the time of creation. An updated version will be issued if more episodes or better sounding ones become available.
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April 11, 2013 Subject:
The Cold and the Gold
The series sadly suffered as a lesser one from Detroit's talented creators in the mind's of the youthful listeners. The lack of the myth of the Ranger or the magic hero, the Green Hornet, hurt this grand collection of tales. Production values, cast and music all were as good as the others and often plots had clever twists. Some of the best shows are missing from this and other "free" sites. I wish more listeners would give this collection a fair hearing.
January 19, 2012 Subject:
This is a great show.
I've listened to the whole set -- glad it was posted. Here's a few technical problems I noticed while listening (the "researchers" might be interested):
48-09-13, is a Christmas show; it is not "The Fraud" as stated. It is actually #591, "The Man With The Red Coat." (12-22-48)
49-1-7, "Jim Belden's Secret" is not right. The episode changes midway through, and the first half is "Bonanza 47" (49-1-5). The end of "Bonanza 47" is missing; the beginning of "Jim Belden's Secret" is missing.
49-3-7, "Trail Mates" is not complete. The end is missing.
49-3-11, should be "The Meal That Convicted."
49-3-25, "Letters to a Killer" is incomplete. Ending is missing. (Only 24:44)
49-3-28, "Conover's Crime" is incomplete. End is missing. (Only 21:28)
49-4-6, should be "Dead Man's Map."
49-5-18, "The Bad Penny" is defective between 5 and 7 minutes.
49-5-27, "The Skull in the Stone" is incomplete. (only 11:25)
49-6-8, "The Case of the Yellow Ribbon" has no yellow ribbon in it. It is about a logging contract.
50-2-6, "Jailbreak" is incomplete. Ending is missing.
50-2-17, "Alias Al Gibson" is wrong -- it is not the show named. It is actually a repeat of an earlier show. This episode also breaks the continuing story of Bat Nelson. This show is mislabeled. There is no mention of Al Gibson. The commercials are also from an earlier period -- they are for the cut-out models for the "Yukon Trail."
50-9-6, "Cal Dorset's Hair" is mistitled, it should be Heir. At about 15:30, there is a drop in volume for about :30.
51-2-10, "The King of Keena Creek" is mistitled. It should be Keno. This is clearly said in the show and there is a Keno Hill in the Yukon.
51-8-30, "The Red Coated Crook" is mistitled. The episode has nothing about a red coat in it.
December 29, 2010 Subject:
Was one of my favorites
Must have heard every one of these shows on the RADIO, and saw a few movies, as well as watching the Television Series.
Always like the radio one where Sgt. Preston is dealing with "Forty Mile Bill." The dog King was of course one of the smartest dogs in the world, and always knew when to bark hehehe . . .
A good show, radio or television, give it a listen - at least.
November 17, 2010 Subject:
I've been listening to this series for some time now and I find it very enjoyable. The commercials and promotions are obviously geared towards a young audience, but the plots, the acting, and effects are all professional and enjoyable by adult listeners.
Paul Sutton does an excellent job as Sgt. Preston and remained a constant throughout the long run of this series.
One thing to note though, the early episodes are only a 15 minute run so the stories are extremely condensed and I discovered that when the series went to a 30 minute broadcast they reused much, if not all, of the original stories from the 15 minute shows. These longer versions of the same show are _much_ more detailed and enjoyable IMO, so I suggest you might want to skip the earlier 15 minute shows and go right into the full length stories.
This series is pretty complete, but oddly enough it appears that towards the end a lot of episodes are missing. They're regular clear through 1951, but there's only one from 1952, a few from 1953, none from 1954, and one from 1955. I would like to catch the end of this series so hopefully someone out there has and will share these missing episodes. Then we can join Sgt. Preston in once more saying. "Well King, this case is closed."